The last time I did a fitness check-in I was complaining about my heavy legs and lagging energy. As I work on trying to improve my 10k time I’ve been employing different types of runs to help me with my endurance, strength, and speed. These workouts have been extremely challenging and also encouraging as each week–even when things are tough, I see my fitness improve at least a little bit (had my “easiest” 6X mile repeat workout yet on Sunday!)
As I quickly grew tired of my own grumbling, about 10 days ago I decided to step up my game and try to do something about my stiff limbs and lackluster stamina. My sudden but thorough dedication has produced some rather rapid and profound results, so it seems only right to share in case anyone else out there needs a boost. None of these things are rocket science or even really new. Ironically, my first two pointers are things I’ve done before (and shared about some) but have been lazy about the past few months. Getting back and deepening my commitment to them as daily practices has had such a huge impact, I hope I’ll never stray again.
TMT Baby…Or Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, if you will…
I’ve written about the magic of magnesium before and how much it has helped loosen up my tight calves. Before I started marathon training last year I couldn’t run more than a mile or two without getting charlie horses in the back of my legs. I’d stretch and stretch but I couldn’t figure out how I was going to start building major mileage without cramping up. Being desperate, I finally took the advice from my mom to try magnesium oil. I think I was hesitant before because I had been taking a magnesium supplement for a really long time. While it had always been an effective tool for keeping me regular (I take it every night before I go to bed and wake up at almost the exact same time every morning to do my business), it had never seemed to have any effect on any other part of my body. When I was finally open and willing to listen, I heard my mom explain that absorbing magnesium (an essential mineral that we are almost all deficient in) through the skin was far more effective than taking it orally since it meant it could bypass the road block of our digestive systems.
The first time I rubbed the oil in my calves I thought it was some sort of witch’s brew; it worked so fast it freaked me out a little. Since then I’ve been using it on the same area on a daily basis and I’ve had little to no cramping despite extensive mileage and excessive hill work.
For some reason it was only about a week ago when I tweaked my back at the gym that I thought about using it in other places. All the strength training and speedwork I’ve been doing has my quads and hamstrings feeling like concrete–immobile and terribly heavy. Now, twice a day–once after my workout in the morning and once before I go to bed, I’m massaging the magnesium oil into every part of my legs, my glutes, and my back. Most nights, my legs are so tight and restless that I’m tempted to jump out of bed and hop on the foam roller. Instead now I’m falling asleep faster and resting more soundly since I’m not being woken up by my antsy or cramping legs. Speaking of the foam roller…
F.R.I.L…Foam Rolling is Life…
When I learned that our bodies are encased in this web of fascia that constantly absorb trauma and stress and constrict to protect (and also inhibit) our movement, injuries I had had began to make a lot more sense. I’m not going to get into the science or even the how-to of foam rolling, as I think most people (runners especially) are familiar. If you are not, google both ‘foam rolling’ and ‘myofascial release’ and you will find a wealth of useful information.
Up until a couple weeks ago, my foam rolling game was pretty much dying. My legs felt like shit but every time I went to roll it didn’t seem like much was happening. So I did it less and less. Finally, one night when my quads were screaming, I hopped on the roller while my hubs and I sat and watched playoff basketball. After a lot of fussing around, I finally realized that I was only getting the pressure I needed at the very end of the roller. Immediately I grabbed my iPad and googled ‘do foam rollers wear out?’ Upon finding almost immediately that the answer was yes, I pondered how it could have taken me so long to realize how lumpy and ineffective my favorite painful tool had gotten. A minute or so later I next-day primed a new one to our door. Since receiving it I’ve welcomed back that hurts so good feeling into my life twice a day–no excuses. It’s paid off. Along with the magnesium oil, I feel like I’ve got a new set of legs. I’m feeling strong, as always, but now also light and loose and a whole lot more mobile. I feel like I’ve got some spring in my legs again which is a relief since I’ve been working on picking up some speed.
Getting faster or going further is pretty much impossible if your energy is dwindling…
Finding my Fuel…
I mentioned previously that running on empty wasn’t cutting it anymore. I workout first thing in the morning and while I used to make it through on last night’s meal and my AM cocktail of ACV, lemon, and water, it’s not enough for what I’m trying to do now. I don’t care for carb-loading and eating a lot of grains as my body does not respond well to it, so I had to figure out something else. During marathon training before long runs I would have a protein shake in the morning (0 carbs) and then rely on gels or blocks once I got past a certain number of miles. I think this worked ok, but I always felt like there was room for improvement. I’ve been playing around with different things the past couple weeks and I think I’ve finally come up with a smoothie that I’m really happy with:
- frozen org strawberries
- frozen org kale
- frozen org blueberries
- 1/2 or whole banana
- several chunks fresh pineapple
- Vega one protein powder
- tbsp Bulletproof MCT Oil
- Unsweetened almond milk
The fruit provides me with all the sugar/carbohydrate I need for fuel–but with the protein in the vega powder and the fat in the MCT oil, I feel like I’m upgrading to a premium source of energy that lasts for hours. I can’t remember the last time I was finishing runs and still feeling like I had so much left in the tank. It’s a good feeling–and I think it’s been a positive for me not only physically, but also mentally. For so long I always tried to run on empty because I figured I’d burn the most fat that way. I was fine if I finished a workout dragging as long as I had extinguished a certain number of calories. It feels good now to provide my body with what it needs to perform the way I want it to. We’re working together now rather than me just forcing it into submission. I want to focus more on what my body is capable of doing, rather than what it is capable of looking like. I think eating for gains rather than losses is going to help set me on that track.
Bonus tip: I started adding the pineapple after my mom suggested it for it’s powerful enzyme, bromelain. I had complained to her about having the right amount of time to digest the smoothie before I started my workout–I wanted to be satisfied but not too full. Right away she suggested the pineapple as the bromelain would aid in digestion and also reduce inflammation and promote blood flow. I swear this one was kind of like the magnesium oil–it worked so quickly I almost couldn’t believe it. Instead of sitting in my stomach, the smoothie starts to work it’s way into my system quickly and is ready to be used as my fuel as soon as I get to the gym. What can I say, the lady knows her shit! (She’s a holistic nutritionist. I am trying to get her to start her own blog cause she really has so much to offer!)
Got any tips you are currently using that are saving your legs or your mind lately? I’d love to hear them!
What do you eat/drink before your workout or run?
Do you find you are more focused on performance in your workouts, or on the results of them (losing weight, toning up, etc)? Do you think this focus matters?